Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

On this Christmas Eve, I find the immortal words of Charles Wesley appropriate (since it still is his 300th anniversary). Further, what carol presents the gospel more, and what is more grounded in scriptural language? The first 3 verses are the most familiar, but the latter two are very good as well.

Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with the angelic host proclaim,
'Christ is born in Bethlehem.'
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.

Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see:
hail, the incarnate Deity,
pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.

Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace:
hail, the Sun of Righteousness.
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that man no more may die,
born to raise the sons of earth,
born to give them second birth.
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
fix in us thy humble home;
rise, the woman's conquering seed,
bruise in us the serpent's head;
now display thy saving power,
ruined nature now restore,
now in mystic union join
thine to ours and ours to thine.
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
stamp Thine image in its place:
second Adam from above,
reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
formed in each believing heart.
Hark, the herald-angels sing
glory to the new-born King.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Our Own Advent!

Amy gave birth to Katherine Elaine Saturday morning, December 15, at 4:18 a.m. She was in a hurry to see the world, because we only checked into the hospital at 3:00! All went well, and she and Amy are both doing fabulously. You can't see it through her hat here, but she has lots of hair! She was six pounds, nine ounces, and 19 1/2 inches long. We'll be home tomorrow morning. To quote Amy, "Labor really wasn't too bad. It was kind of like running a marathon." It was highly appropriate having a baby, though, during the season of Advent! It's hard to sing all those advent hymns without thinking of Kate (until they get to the Christological language).

Friday, December 07, 2007

St. Ambrose of Milan

Today is the feast of St. Ambrose (340-397), one of the early Doctors of the Church. Ambrose was a governor in northern Italy, and became bishop of Milan on December 7 after he made peace with the Arians (who denied the deity of Christ) and Athanasians (who affirmed the Trinity) when they were fighting over who would be the next bishop. Through his subsequent preaching, most of that district was converted to the Athanasian position. Ambrose was also the person who led Augustine to his conversion (as told in his Confessions).

Ambrose was further famous for his hymnwriting abilities. His hymns are some of the earliest that are extant. When Arian soldiers wished to enter his church to worship, he famously barricaded the door with his congregation and gave them Trinitarian hymns to sing. The soldiers felt unable to harm hymn-singing people, and so were prevented from entering. Many (if not all) of Ambrose's hymns include a last verse praising the Trinity, a helpful feature for someone battling Arianism.

One of Ambrose's hymns that is still sung currently is an Advent hymn, Veni, Redemptor gentium. It has been translated a few times, but the one I know is the translation of John Mason Neale, whom you might remember from before. It is usually sung to the tune PUER NOBIS NASCITUR, a 15th century tune harmonized by Michael Praetorius. Note its very strong emphasis on the twofold nature of Christ (especially verses four through six).

Come, Thou Redeemer of the earth,
And manifest Thy virgin birth:
Let every age adoring fall;
Such birth befits the God of all.

Begotten of no human will,
But of the Spirit, Thou art still
The Word of God in flesh arrayed,
The promised Fruit to man displayed.

The virgin womb that burden gained
With virgin honor all unstained;
The banners there of virtue glow;
God in His temple dwells below.

Forth from His chamber goeth He,
That royal home of purity,
A giant in twofold substance one,
Rejoicing now His course to run.

From God the Father He proceeds,
To God the Father back He speeds;
His course He runs to death and hell,
Returning on God’s throne to dwell.

O equal to the Father, Thou!
Gird on Thy fleshly mantle now;
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.

Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
And darkness breathe a newer light,
Where endless faith shall shine serene,
And twilight never intervene.

All laud to God the Father be,
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the Holy Paraclete.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Advent Arrives Again

The church year began again this past Sunday (year A, for all you Matthew fans). At church I was glad to sing Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, one of my favorites to sing and play. This Advent is special, however, for it also contains the 300th birthday of Charles Wesley. Born December 18, 1707, Wesley has left us with a corpus of some of the most wonderful English hymn texts in existence, both doctrinally and experientially.

Charles is sometimes overshadowed by his brother John, but Charles was heavily involved in what would become the Methodist denomination. His hymns are perhaps better known to many today than are John's sermons. He is credited with anywhere between 5500 and 6500 hymn texts, depending on the source. I've discussed one of my favorites before, but Charles has also left us with some wonderful Advent and Christmas texts, perhaps the most famous "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing."

This Sunday, however, we sang the Advent text "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus." It is usually set to the tune HYFRYDOL, although I did find it set to STUTTGART and a couple of others. Something that I like about Wesley's hymns is that each of them has such a strong proclamation of the gospel. This one is no exception.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

San Diego & AAR

Weekend before last was the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, this year in San Diego. Since Amy is a member of SBL and I am a member of AAR, it's always a fun time to get away for a weekend and hear some interesting papers.

While SBL often has some solid biblical scholarship, AAR can be a hit or miss affair. For example, last year in Washington, D.C., I was treated to an awkward conversation with the head of an arts and theology department, a great talk by N.T. Wright, and an interpretive dance based on the works of Kant and Hegel.

This year, however, was a fabulous year for my own interests. First I attended a session on the arts and theology which examined Andy Warhol's Sixty Last Suppers. The panel, which consisted of an art historian, a theologian, a Catholic and a Protestant, agreed that it seemed not ironic, and an interesting discussion followed, with Frank Burch Brown among the respondents. I left that session before a film discussion to catch the Baptist Professors of Religion's discussion of Just War.

That afternoon I caught a 19th century theology section, including a discussion of Ritschl, Nietzsche, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and some other 19th century feminists. I was hoping for some help for my dissertation, but it wasn't that helpful, although still interesting, since I've been living in the 19th century.

Following that was a fabulous Hebrews paper by Amy, which she delivered well and fielded some hard questions.

On Sunday I attended a discussion on Eucharistic origins with Andrew McGowan (his paper is posted at his blog), who has continued Bradshaw's calling for the rethinking of a unified early Eucharist. It was a fabulous round table, although I didn't agree with all conclusions that were made (also, it was unfortunately somewhat hard to hear). After that was a session on early depictions of worship, which included slides. Since it was late on my third day and dark, I don't quite remember everything about it.

My other favorite session was one on Monday, regarding Music and Theology. While the papers I heard weren't incredible, I am excited to see this group getting going at AAR. However, I did skip out on the middle couple of papers to hear my friend Justin's paper in the Mark section, which also turned out quite well. It looked like the stronger papers at Music and Theology happened while I was gone, but I was happy to support Justin. It seems as if it's going to become a regular program group, for which I would be grateful.

In all, it was a great conference this year, both for the papers I heard and for the people I got to see. Our OBU religion faculty was there, as well as friends from Princeton, Drew and elsewhere. I don't know what we'll do next year, though, because AAR and SBL are splitting. We'll have to see whose papers get accepted, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Come, Labor On

On Sunday, besides singing "For All the Saints," our choir sang an easy arrangement of "Come, Labor On" (arranged by myself) for its anthem, the congregation joining in on the final verse. It was a nice bookend to the pre-communion service, with "For all the saints who from their labors rest" beginning and then, the call to "Come, labor on" to conclude it.

It is a hymn that is not as well-known in non-Anglican churches, although it is an excellent call to service. Jane Laurie Borthwick (1813-1897), the text's author, was a resident of Edinburgh who also spent some time in Switzerland. Like Winkworth, she and her sister produced some translations of German hymns, notably in Hymns from the Land of Luther and Alpine Hymns.

Its rousing tune, ORA LABORA, is by Thomas Tertius Noble (1867-1953), a student of Charles Villiers Stanford. Noble was a noted organist in England, and in 1913 moved to New York to become the organist at St. Thomas Church, where he established their boys choir and choir school, serving until 1943 (the noted organist John Scott serves there now). He was one of the editors of the 1916 Episcopal Hymnal, and served on the committee of the 1940 edition as well.

The text is based on Matthew 25:23. Most hymnals omit the third verse about the enemy watching, and many omit the final verse, probably because the penultimate verse ends so well. Noble's tune fits it well, which could have been difficult with its five-line structure. It doesn't feel as even as many hymns because of this odd number, but it rises to a nice finish.

Come, labor on!
Who dares stand idle, on the harvest plain
While all around him waves the golden grain?
And to each servant does the Master say,
“Go work today.”

Come, labor on!
Claim the high calling angels cannot share—
To young and old the Gospel gladness bear;
Redeem the time; its hours too swiftly fly.
The night draws nigh.

Come, labor on!
The enemy is watching night and day,
To sow the tares, to snatch the seed away;
While we in sleep our duty have forgot,
He slumbered not.

Come, labor on!
Away with gloomy doubts and faithless fear!
No arm so weak but may do service here:
By feeblest agents may our God fulfill
His righteous will.

Come, labor on!
No time for rest, till glows the western sky,
Till the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,
And a glad sound comes with the setting sun,
“Well done, well done!”

Come, labor on!
The toil is pleasant, the reward is sure;
Blessed are those who to the end endure;
How full their joy, how deep their rest shall be,
O Lord, with Thee!

Friday, November 02, 2007

For All the Saints

Yesterday, being All Saints Day, is a good day in the church's calendar because of the obvious usage of the hymn "For All the Saints," by William How, an Anglican rector and bishop. At a time when we are called upon to remember the "cloud of witnesses" who have stood strong in the faith, this hymn is useful for more than just its title. It is a lengthy one, with many hymnals including five or six verses, and some up to eight.

Besides its fabulous text, the tune, SINE NOMINE, is by the master Ralph Vaughan Williams (if you're up on your Latin, you might get the little joke of the tune title). It features a driving pedal line for the organ, and a lively melody for singing (oh, I briefly discussed it before). The accents of the text are sometimes different between verses, so it also makes the singer (and organist) pay close attention to the words. I also find it very appropriate to play at funerals, although played with less fervor than I usually would. If you come to my funeral, be sure this one is sung—not that I'm saintly by nature, but all are saints who are sanctified.

I was happy to go to choir last night and find that we will be singing this on Sunday. I had already planned to play a Vaughan Williams setting of a communion hymn for a postlude, so it will be a Vaughan Williams Sunday. Here's the text, with all the verses, of "For All the Saints."

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Friday, October 19, 2007

My Statement of Music in Worship

As I promised a couple of weeks ago, here are the ideas I hold to about music in worship. Well, these are them as they stood when I wrote this at Westminster about four years ago, before I actually took many courses and read many things about worship itself. I was going to rework them because I think some of these points definitely should be, but I decided to present them and see what comments you might have. For one thing, as I read this I see that my writing style has slowly been changing, but that's another topic. More importantly—no, never mind. As I said, I'm going to post them without more comment.

  1. As God showed His creativity in the act of Creation, and humanity is created in His image (Genesis 1), we should use our creativity to fashion good music and other forms of art (e.g. drama, painting, sculpture, sermons, responsive readings, etc.) for His worship. This is also embodied in the statement that we are to sing a new song unto God (Psalm 33:3; 96:1; 98:1; 149:1; Isaiah 42:10).
  2. The act of worship is one of the most important activities in which the church as a community participates. This is also true on a personal level—the act of worship, both communally and personally, gives a greater depth to the spiritual life and the fellowship which one enjoys with God. The focus of worship is God—not our own emotions or desires. It is not something to be merely observed or attended, but is something in which to actively participate. This is one way among many that we can “present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice unto God, [as] our spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). Participation is not limited to the music leaders (organist, choir members, music director, etc.), but the congregation's voice should be the main instrument of praise. All are commanded to sing (I Chronicles 16:23-25; Psalm 66:1-2; 96:1,2; 98:1; 147:7; 149:1; Isa. 42:10).
  3. The time that is set aside for the community of believers to come together to worship Him is not the time for evangelism to be emphasized. Although evangelism is also one of the highest callings of the people of God, it has its own time and place. The worship service is just that—a time when the worship of God is the main focus. It is good to be reminded of the gift outlined in the Gospel and have opportunity for those who feel the urging of the Holy Spirit to follow His call; however, the purpose of the music of the service is to glorify God and turn our minds towards Him.
  4. What we offer to God in worship should be to Him as the fragrant incense that was burned on the Altar of Incense in the Tabernacle and the Temple. In describing the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16, Aaron is commanded to offer two goats, a ram, and incense, the cloud of which will cover the Mercy Seat so that he will not die. For Christians, the book of Hebrews describes Jesus as our High Priest, through whose eternal sacrifice we are able to enter the presence of God and also into the rest He grants us. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were always accompanied by music (I Chronicles 16; I Chronicles 25; II Chronicles 5:11-14; 23:18). David, in Psalm 69:30-31, even states that praising God pleases Him even more than sacrifice. Our eternal sacrifice, Jesus, also sang a hymn to conclude the Passover meal that we celebrate as the Lord's Supper just before He sacrificed Himself on the cross.
  5. The music that is used should be the very best that can be done. As we are bringing our gifts before God, they should be of the first fruit, as Abel did in Genesis 4:4. This implies that it is the most excellent, not merely something that everyone likes. The priests in the Temple also used the best in music of their time. This is shown in I Kings 5-7—as everything that was done for the Temple was done with great skill, the music must also have been performed as such. II Chronicles 5:11-14 describes the dedication of the Temple, and the priests played instruments and sang praise to God, and His glory came down so greatly that they could not enter the Temple.
  6. The texts of the music in the worship service should be consistent with Scripture, doctrinally sound, and meaningful to the Christian experience. We are told in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (see also Ephesians 5:19). Jesus commanded us to worship God both in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). And the Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, says to pray and sing with both the spirit and the mind (I Corinthians 14:15). Therefore, our music and the texts that are used with it should not just give a nice feeling nor just make good theological sense, but should do a combination of both. Also, just because a particular piece is popular or is known by many people does not make it fitting for true worship. The music is there to glorify God, not for our entertainment.
  7. The ceremony of the church (and the music that's included), whether the celebration of the Lord's Supper or a Good Friday service, must not become so familiar as to become empty ritual. All should be mindful of the significance of everything that is done in the worship service. The service should also be both free and orderly—without the leadership of the Holy Spirit it is dead, but, without order there is chaos.

So, what thoughts might you have? I am definitely open to suggestions. What should be changed? What should be added/omitted? I have some ideas...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fall has finally come

Now that there's not a 70 to be found in the ten day forecast, I think I'm safe in saying that Fall has finally arrived in New Jersey. It is the best season of the year, for not only is it time for school (yes, I'm a nerd), it's cool out, and that brings out the beautiful leaves, as well as good, warm things to eat and drink. That's probably the greatest reason I like Fall—because it's time to drag out the good spices, like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, etc., with which I love to bake things.

In fact, this afternoon as I was heating up some apple cider, I dropped some cinnamon sticks and some whole cloves in. As I did, I was reminded, as I always am, of a conversation with millinerd about what the medieval church used to help people understand theology. In a time when reading and writing was very rare, other means were used to teach the tenets of faith. In this case, cloves are a wonderful object lesson, for whole cloves look like nails. These clove-nails were used to remind the faithful of the crucifixion. It is a wonderful object lesson, because not only is it a visual one, but the very distinctive smell and taste of clove serves as an even greater sensory experience.

It is such a great sensory experience, that now whenever I open the cloves (which is fairly often, because it is my favorite spice), I instantly think of the crucifixion. It's an experience for which I'm glad.

Here's my favorite recipe involving cloves (although, of the ground variety). It's from my grandmother's German grandmother. I like to take them out just when the tops crack, and then dip them in powdered sugar. And you can tinker around with the spices as you like—e.g., I like to add extra cloves.

Sugar & Spice Cookies


- 3/4 cup shortening
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon cloves
- 3/4 teaspoon ginger

Mix the first 4 ingredients together.
Sift other ingredients together and stir into other ingredients.
Form into walnut-sized balls. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

I've mentioned before that this is my favorite hymn, but I've been reflecting on why that is. Last Sunday we sang this in church in the morning, and I got to play it again that evening in the Princeton Seminary Koinonia opening worship (that's the doctoral student fellowship). I also then, on Friday, had my class analyze it on their music theory quizzes, so I had a week to reflect.

Firstly, we should think about its text. Again, as many hymns I've discussed here, Catherine Winkworth translated it, although this time in the 1863 Chorale Book for England, on page 29-30. Its German author, Joachim Neander, wrote the text in 1679. You can read a brief bio of Neander at the cyberhymnal, but of note are that he studied with two famous pietists Philipp Jakob Spener, considered one of the fathers of pietism, and Johann Schütz; and that he is immortalized through the discovery of Neanderthal Man in the valley named after him.

Winkworth included four verses in the Chorale Book for England, and it is these four that most modern hymnals include.

Praise to the Lord! the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear,
Now to His temple draw near,
Join me in glad adoration!

Praise to the Lord! who o'er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea so gently sustaineth;
Hast thou not seen
How thy desires have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord! who doth prosper thy work and defend thee,
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee;
Ponder anew
What the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee!

Praise to the Lord! Oh let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him!
Let the Amen
Sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him!

If you look at the cyberhymnal version, you see 7 verses. I'm unsure where they've found them all. I have an 1829 Lieder-Sammlung that includes 5 verses, including the 3rd on the cyberhymnal page, but I haven't found the other verses. My other German hymnals all have the same 5 verses. However, in English-language hymnals, it seems to have only become popular in the latter half of the 20th century, and I can only find the common 4 verses. I'll have to look into that more.

Returning to the text, though, it is a wonderful call to praise. It begins by calling people to worship, moves on to praise God for creation and all that God does for us, and finally concludes with a view towards eternity. The text is the first positive to this hymn—the focus on God's greatness is exactly what should be in a song of praise (unlike some which purport to glorify God and then spend the whole time discussing humans). Further, showing God's greatness through creation is a common theme throughout history, from the Psalms on forward. But, it is the final verse that draws it together for me—for it is in the eschaton that humanity is truly redeemed, along with all creation.

The second positive to this hymn, though, is its music. The tune, which takes its name from the German title LOBE DEN HERREN, is perfectly suited to the text. The most common version, harmonized by William S. Bennett, is an excellent example of classical contrapuntal rules. Since it does follow these rules so nicely, it is exceptionally easy to play, and at the same time greatly embellish for interest on different verses.

Further, the structure of it is exactly what is needed for the text (warning—some music theory follows). Winkworth maintained the rhyming scheme from the German, AABBA. The tune, similarly, follows this scheme. The first line of music is repeated, then comes a contrasting section for the B lines, and the final line takes the second half of the first line to produce the ending—giving the musical structure aaba'. In common practice music, this is a form of what is known as a "contrasting double period," a common phrase structure. The high point of the piece, occurring in the B section, allows for the fall to the final cadence to give a good sense of completion to the hymn.

This combination of text and tune makes this hymn into what I would consider a perfect example of what should occur in worship—a well-constructed yet also spiritually and emotionally uplifting hymn of praise. It fits well into my own theology of music in worship, which I've never discussed here but obviously should. Look for it soon. But, what do you think of this hymn? I've been told by some others that it's one of their favorites—does everyone agree?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

How Summer Took Up All My Free Time

Obviously, I've written nothing for three months. Well, nothing online. Here's a quick rundown of my summer, and the things that have occupied me:
  1. My dissertation. I'm happy to say I've gotten one chapter done, and am well on my way in a second. Besides that, Amy came with me on an extensive and helpful research trip in July to Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama.
  2. Amy studying for comprehensive exams. I have a greater appreciation for all she did for me last summer when I was in that boat.
  3. Guests. We had a lot of fun with Amy's family, my family, several sets of friends, and seemingly almost everyone we know. It was great, and I loved it, but it wasn't conducive to #1 or #2!
  4. Moving. We've moved to a bigger apartment (just up the hall from our former one), in anticipation of:
  5. A new baby! We're expecting a baby girl this December.
So, while that's no excuse to stop writing, I have had a busy summer. Both millinerd and drulogion have been giving me grief, so I'm back to blogging. Towards their questions, here's a rundown of my dissertation so far.

The title of the dissertation (or, as some Greek philosophers would have it, the diatribe—thank you, Amy comp studying) is The Baptist Hymnal For Use in the Church and Home: Its Content, Development and Reception. A thrilling, academic title, I know. I've begun with chapter 2, an examination of the members of the committee that came together on this project. They were a diverse group, with members from many different theological and musical viewpoints (although all Baptist).

First, having the two main musical editors together, William Howard Doane and Elias Henry Johnson, would almost be like today getting tobyMac and Brian Wren to put together a hymnal. Doane, as a proponent and writer of gospel songs, was heavily involved in promoting this music that many felt was unfit for Sunday morning worship. Johnson, conversely, was the sole editor of the next major Baptist hymnal, titled Sursum Corda. It was full of "high church" hymns, and included a large section of Anglican chant. This was not as unusual in the late 19th century as it might seem now in a Baptist hymnal. Several Baptist hymnals throughout the century include such chant ( including the 1883 hymnal at hand), although the Sursum Corda's section is rather large.

Besides the music editors, the American Baptist Publication Society put together a superstar collection of famous preachers and writers. Two of the pastors were called upon to preach at Henry Ward Beecher's funeral, one co-wrote a book with Harriet Beecher Stowe, several were editors of major Baptist newspapers, still others were famous revival preachers and singers, and a great deal were involved in teaching a colleges and seminaries. Here's a map I've generated of all the states in which these men pastored, taught and published. You might notice that of the states east of the Missouri River, only four are not included.Putting together such a widely dispersed committee was a shrewd move on the part of the publication society and its secretary, Benjamin Griffith, for it helped to quickly spread the word about the new hymnal, and helped ensure that the preferences of different areas of the country were addressed.

I'll write more about it as chapters unfold. Besides, I can't put everything online—it's way too long. I also have thought of several other things I've been wanting to write about, so I'll try to be a more regular blogger again.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Venerable Bede

I decided today would be a good day to break my internet silence. My semester grades are in, I'm done playing operas for now, and my dissertation prospectus is (finally) in the mail. On such an auspicious day in which I'm done with all my projects (and am ready to actually start writing), I'm happy that it is also the Feast of the Venerable Bede.

Bede (673-735), called "Venerable" because of his wisdom, was placed in a monastery in northern England at the age of 7. Benedict Biscop, a nobleman who had become a monk, founded this monastery. Biscop traveled to Rome several times, each time returning with many books, paintings and artifacts, and, therefore, the library at Wearmouth (the monastery) was known as the best in England. Bede thus acquired great knowledge, for he rarely traveled far, and spent most of his time reading and studying. He is most famous for his Historia Ecclesiastica, a history of the English church and people. However, he also wrote many other things, among them many treatises and letters calling for reform in the church. He also lists in his works a Book of Hymns, which, to our great loss, is not extant.

Some of his hymns have survived, however, the most famous the "Hymnum canamus dominum," translated variously as "A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing" and "Sing We Triumphant Hymns of Praise." I am most familiar with "A Hymn of Glory," translated by Benjamin Webb in 1854 (Webb was a friend of John Mason Neale, whom you might remember from this post). Here is its text:

A hymn of glory let us sing
New songs throughout the world shall ring
Christ, by a road before untrod
Ascendeth to the throne of God.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

The holy apostolic band
Upon the Mount of Olives stand
And with His followers they see
Jesus’ resplendent majesty
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

To Whom the angels drawing nigh,
“Why stand and gaze upon the sky?”
“This is the Savior,” thus they say.
“This is His noble triumph day.”
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

“Again ye shall behold Him so,
As ye have today seen Him go.”
“In glorious pomp ascending high
Up to the portals of the sky.”
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

O grant us thitherward to tend
And with unwearied hearts ascend,
Unto Thy kingdom’s throne, where Thou
As is our faith, art seated now,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Be Thou our Joy and strong Defense,
Who art our future Recompense,
So shall the light that springs from Thee
Be ours through all eternity,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

O risen Christ, ascended Lord,
All praise to Thee let earth accord,
Who art, while endless ages run,
With Father and with Spirit One,
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Its highly appropriate for this week, so soon after the ascension. A couple of tunes that have been used for this are LASST UNS ERFREUEN (with alleluias added after the second line) and DEO GRACIAS. I do like both of those tunes, but I do prefer the latter for this hymn (showing my bias towards modal, medieval sounds). It was written to celebrate an English victory over the French at Agincourt, but its stately sounds fit well the ascending of Christ "in glorious pomp," especially if you happen to have some brass players to join in as I do. It's a great postlude, too, if your congregation can't sing it!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Praying Mantis

This is a praying mantis for my more charismatic friends (I didn't take it).

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

After the 40 days of Lent, I'm so glad we've finally reached the feast of the resurrection! As the high point of the Christian year, and the most important for our faith, Easter also has some of the best hymns. Besides the hymn I started this blog with one year ago, there are so many other wonderful expressions of joy from the 2,000 years of the Christian tradition.

This text, Aurora lucis rutilat, is a Latin text from the 5th century. It's been put with the tune Puer nobis in the Hymnal 1982 and in others, which is a good, joyful tune to which to sing it (although a little slow in the linked version). This is a 15th century tune that was adapted by Michael Praetorius.

That Eastertide with joy was bright,
The sun shone out with fairer light,
When, to their longing eyes restored,
The apostles saw their risen Lord.

He bade them see His hands, His side,
Where yet the glorious wounds abide;
The tokens true which made it plain
Their Lord indeed was risen again.

Jesus, the King of gentleness,
Do Thou Thyself our hearts possess
That we may give Thee all our days
The tribute of our grateful praise.

O Lord of all, with us abide
In this our joyful Eastertide;
From every weapon death can wield
Thine own redeemed forever shield.

All praise be Thine, O risen Lord,
From death to endless life restored;
All praise to God the Father be
And Holy Ghost eternally.

Enjoy this 1600-year-old hymn of praise, as you celebrate the resurrection!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Set of ears says generosity is there

I really love the Princeton Theological Seminary book sale. Since Amy's a student, we can go in for the Sunday night preview, and, since I'm surrounded by mostly systematic theologians and biblical scholars, I usually do very well in the music and liturgy departments. Besides a first edition Bushnell, and a couple of volumes from the series Twenty Centuries of Christian Worship, I was happy to find both an early 19th century biography of Watts and a fairly rare book I've seen once before by Charles S. Nutter, famous for his Hymn Studies. This book, Historic Hymnists: A Portrait Gallery of Great Hymn Writers, published in 1893, includes pictures and a short biography of many of the famous hymn writers from the 19th century and before.

Pressed into its pages was a typed sheet, "Prayer Meeting on Feb. 15, 1933." This I found very interesting, as a short liturgy in 7 sections involving the book in question. Section 2 interests me the most. Unfortunately I have no idea what hymnal was being used by the author of this sheet, so the hymns they sang (other than that named) will remain a mystery. But, here is this section (without the appropriate indentations—sorry, I didn't want to spend the time editing all that html):

2. Prayer Meeting hymn "MY FAITH LOOKS UP TO THEE".
A. Show picture of the writer--Dr. Palmer
B. Interpret face
a. Head well set in the midst of a strong pair of sturdy shoulders.
b. Set of ears says generosity is there
c. Eyes well set in firm sockets--piercing eyes kindly and pleasing eyes
d. Pointed nose -- fine penetrated into new paths "I'LL FIND A WAY OR MAKE ONE"
e. Large nostrils sign of deep breather which says plenty of fresh air--lungs of capacity
f. Firm and determined jaw
g. Pleasing mouth--not a TALE BEARER--eather [sic] when he opened his mouth he said something

Following this excursus solely on Dr. Palmer's picture, the leader shared the story of his life (also handily in this book), and then read and interpreted his hymn sung above, also known as "Consecration hymn." Afterwards, all knelt to pray, while the piano played softly, and then the speaker sang the hymn "from another room." Finally they sang one more hymn, which shall remain anonymous.

I found this very quaint, but extremely interesting. The plethora of "hymn stories" books from the late 19th century have intrigued me, especially since they have continued in popularity until today (with books such as 101 Hymn Stories and the like). I always imagined devotional readings of these stories from homes—I never really pictured a whole service built around such a story. And, I imagined even less a large section of such a service based only on the picture of the writer in question. I almost expected to see a phrenological chart of Ray Palmer following!

It is, without question, a great hymn. Here's its text:

My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine!
Now hear me while I pray, take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day be wholly Thine!

May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire!
As Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee,
Pure warm, and changeless be, a living fire!

While life’s dark maze I tread,
And griefs around me spread, be Thou my Guide;
Bid darkness turn to day, wipe sorrow’s tears away,
Nor let me ever stray from Thee aside.

When ends life’s transient dream,
When death’s cold sullen stream shall o'er me roll;
Blest Savior, then in love, fear and distrust remove;
O bear me safe above— a ransomed soul!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Chintzy Chasubles

Thanks to Ron for pointing this out:
Chintzy Chasubles. If you come across any good ones, I think the blogger would appreciate pictures!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Holy Week

We've come to perhaps my favorite time of the Christian year, which is Holy Week. Besides the final week of Lent and the anticipation for Easter, the services of Holy Week are wonderful times of reflection and praise—Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday (although many churches, my own among them, have no vigil, which decimates the Easter triduum—a topic for another time).

Part of the moving nature of Holy Week is the wonderful hymns that get sung—"O Sacred Head, Now Wounded," "Ah, Holy Jesus," "Go to Dark Gethsemane," and, on Palm Sunday, "Ride on, Ride on in Majesty," "All Glory, Laud and Honor" and many, many more. Many of these hymns have survived in the English language in large part due to the Oxford Movement, the group of high-church Anglicans who sought to reform the church back to a more highly liturgical past. Such luminaries as Edward B. Pusey, John Henry Newman, John Keble, Henry Manning, Robert Wilberforce, and others were highly influential in the movement.

Hymnologically, it was largely this movement that provided for English singers the rich history of Latin, Greek, Russian, Syriac, German, and many other hymns. John Mason Neale was the biggest influence in this, and it is his work that started me thinking about the Oxford Movement this week. "All Glory, Laud and Honor," the great hymn for Palm Sunday, is part of his corpus. He translated it from the Latin of Theodulph, Bishop of Orleans, famous for his treatise on the term filioque. It's usually sung to ST. THEODULPH by Melchior Teschner, and harmonized by William H. Monk (who, interestingly, harmonized several of the other hymns I mentioned above).

The first verse was originally presented as a refrain, but now the hymn is presented with two verses together, leaving only three total.

All glory, laud and honor,
To Thee, Redeemer, King,
To Whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.

Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou David’s royal Son,
Who in the Lord’s Name comest,
The King and Blessèd One.

The company of angels
Are praising Thee on High,
And mortal men and all things
Created make reply.

The people of the Hebrews
With palms before Thee went;
Our prayer and praise and anthems
Before Thee we present.

To Thee, before Thy passion,
They sang their hymns of praise;
To Thee, now high exalted,
Our melody we raise.

Thou didst accept their praises;
Accept the prayers we bring,
Who in all good delightest,
Thou good and gracious King.

I'm interested that so many of the hymns for Holy Week and Easter are of the more ancient variety (at least, before the 18th century), like this one. Others include "O Sacred Head," "The Day of Resurrection," "Jesus Christ is Risen Today," and many more. These hymns appear in most denominational and nondenominational hymnals. It seems that this is one time when, in celebrating the central feast of the year, Christians are united in singing the same fabulous texts, which antedate the division of Protestant and Catholic, and, in many cases, of Eastern and Western Churches. I was especially reminded of this in thinking about all the Christians who have been blessed by these texts throughout the centuries from the times in which they were written—as the creed reminds us, the communion of saints, praising God in heaven and on earth.

Monday, March 19, 2007

An Upcoming Forum

If you're in the Princeton area, there's a forum next Monday night, March 26, in which I'll be responding to a paper, "Baptism: The Recognition of Christ's Spirit." It should be interesting. The paper itself is by a theology student, and there's myself, a New Testament scholar, and a student from Duke responding.

It's the Koinonia Annual Forum, "Is Baptism a Sacrament?" and it starts at 7:00 p.m. in the Gambrell Room of Scheide Hall (#17 on this map) at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Hymn from this Past Sunday

Besides teaching and getting a dissertation prospectus turned in, I of course am still a church organist. This past week we sang "If You Will Only Let God Guide You," yet another hymn that is often sung during Lent, solely because it's in a minor key. The three verses in our hymnal, Hymns for the Family of God, really have little to do with Lent at all. Here's all the verses, as Catherine Winkworth has translated them:

If thou but suffer God to guide thee
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the rock that naught can move.

What can these anxious cares avail thee
These never ceasing moans and sighs?
What can it help if thou bewail thee
O’er each dark moment as it flies?
Our cross and trials do but press
The heavier for our bitterness.

Be patient and await His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whatever thy Father’s pleasure
And His discerning love hath sent,
Nor doubt our inmost want are known
To Him who chose us for His own.

God knows full well when time of gladness
Shall be the needful thing for thee.
When He has tried thy soul with sadness
And from all guile has found thee free,
He comes to thee all unaware
And makes thee own His loving care.

Nor think amid the fiery trial
That God hath cast thee off unheard,
That he whose hopes meet no denial
Must surely be of God preferred.
Time passes and much change doth bring
And set a bound to everything.

All are alike before the Highest:
’Tis easy for our God, We know,
To raise thee up, though low thou liest,
To make the rich man poor and low.
True wonders still by Him are wrought
Who setteth up and brings to naught.

Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
Perform thy duties faithfully,
And trust His Word: though undeserving,
Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
God never yet forsook in need
The soul that trusted Him indeed.

Our hymnal, as many others, includes the first, third and last verses, albeit in a more modern fashion which takes Winkworth's translation and removes archaicisms. It was originally written by Georg Neumark. Like many chorales, Bach used this text and tune in several of his works, as shown on the Bach Cantatas website. You can also see the German text of the first verse, "Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten," as well as some older tune settings.

I always hear congregations that sing this drone along as slowly as humanly possible. That really bothers me, because the text itself is not mournful—rather, it's a text of hope (even the second verse, although it's definitely darker than the rest). Even though trials and other bad things might be happening, God will bring a time of joy and comfort. If you read the biography of Neumark above, you know that this hymn was written after he was robbed of all his worldly possessions—an event of great trial for anyone.

However, the tune itself reminds me much more of the dance corrente than a mournful dirge. Its triple meter, when played and sung at a quicker tempo, becomes much more lively and dancelike. Considered in that quicker tempo, it becomes much more like the dancing music of Michael Praetorius (e.g., the courantes of Terpischore) or of Samuel Scheidt (e.g., the correntes of Ludi musiciand, I'm avoiding a discussion of the finer points of corrente and courante, since even those two composers seem a little unsure of any difference) than of the dirge it usually is.

So, even after my lively introduction to the hymn on Sunday, by the end of the first line of text the congregation was several beats behind. What is it about minor keys that equals slow in peoples' minds? The organ is such a wonderful instrument because it's easily followed, but, hymns such as this (and Jesus Priceless Treasure, which I've discussed before) always end up plodding along. That's incredibly frustrating, because in a time in which some see hymns as boring, it helps little to sing them in a manner that makes sure they are. If you happen to sing this, please notice the text and sing it with some hope in your heart and in your voice!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Lenten Hymn

I was asked last weekend what my favorite hymns were. After naming "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty," which is definitely my favorite, there's a large group of hymns that I like fairly equally well. I started naming them—"O Sacred Head, Now Wounded," "Jesus, Priceless Treasure," and several others immediately came to my mind. I quickly realized there's a big pattern in my favorites, though—with some British exceptions (notably ones with tunes by Vaughan Williams and Parry), most of the hymns I like best are of the German Lutheran variety. I'm not sure what has caused that, but I think it's probably a combination of J.S. Bach and the German Church Music class I took with Robin Leaver.

That said, there's some really great German Lenten texts. One of my favorites is "Christ, the Life of All the Living" (Jesu, Meines Lebens Leben) by Ernst C. Homburg. Catherine Winkworth translated it into English in Christian Singers of Germany (which I've discussed before). Here is Winkworth's translation:

Christ, the Life of all the living,
Christ the Death of death, our foe,
Who Thyself for us once giving
To the darkest depths of woe,
Patiently didst yield Thy breath
But to save my soul from death;
Praise and glory ever be,
Blessèd Jesus, unto Thee.

Thou, O Christ, hast taken on Thee
Bitter strokes, a cruel rod;
Pain and scorn were heaped upon Thee,
O Thou sinless Son of God,
Only thus for me to win
Rescue from the bonds of sin;
Praise and glory ever be,
Blessèd Jesus, unto Thee.

Thou didst bear the smiting only
That it might not fall on me;
Stoodest falsely charged and lonely
That I might be safe and free;
Comfortless that I might know
Comfort from Thy boundless woe.
Praise and glory ever be,
Blessèd Jesus, unto Thee.

Heartless scoffers did surround Thee,
Treating Thee with shameful scorn
And with piercing thorns they crowned Thee,
All disgrace Thou, Lord, hast borne
That as Thine Thou mightest own me
And with heavenly glory crown me.
Thousand, thousand thanks shall be,
Dearest Jesus, unto Thee.

Thou hast suffered men to bruise Thee
That from pain I might be free;
Falsely did Thy foes accuse Thee,
Thence I gain security;
Comfortless Thy soul did languish
Me to comfort in my anguish.
Thousand, thousand thanks shall be,
Dearest Jesus, unto Thee.

Thou hast suffered great affliction,
And hast borne it patiently,
Even death by crucifixion,
Fully to atone for me;
Thou didst choose to be tormented
That my doom should be prevented.
Thousand, thousand thanks shall be,
Dearest Jesus, unto Thee.

Then, for all that wrought our pardon,
For Thy sorrows deep and sore,
For Thine anguish in the garden,
I will thank Thee evermore;
Thank Thee with my latest breath
For Thy sad and cruel death,
For that last and bitter cry
Praise Thee evermore on high.

I like this hymn because while the text itself is moderately dark, describing at length Jesus' suffering so that we do not have to, the tune is almost cheerful. That combination describes how I feel about Lent in general—in fact, it's one of my favorite times of the Christian year (OK, so I actually like it all). But, as a time in which introspection is encouraged, and in which we can focus on Christ's immense love for humanity, there is that tension of remorse and sorrow for our own sin, while, at the same time, a sense of joy for what Jesus did. I think people forget, sometimes, that Christianity is a joyful religion, even during Lent, when people have given up something dear to them, the "alleluia" is absent, and minor key hymns are dug out of the hymnal.

These hymns that do appear at Lent are, by and large, hymns with great theology and great gospel messages. I wish we'd sing them more often, and, to that end, "Christ, the Life" might be a good candidate, since it's in a major key. I think that is what hampers many of these hymns—their minor quality, which leaves many uncomfortable with them. What others would be useful throughout the year?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Another holiday, more symbols

While digging through book reviews from 1883 for dissertation research, I discovered that one book published that year (which was apparently fairly popular, since I saw several different reviews) was all about the symbolism of various flowers you might give and receive. This was a popular pastime in the Victorian era, with many books and pamphlets produced to be sure that you could say or interpret exactly what you wanted with your floral gifts.

Low and behold, while home this morning because of the ice storm, Lisa Benenson of Hallmark Magazine appeared on the Today show to discuss just this subject. Here is her list of the meanings of flowers. I was a little surprised at the definiteness she gave the subject—such as the absolutely horrible nature of yellow flowers, implying jealousy, disdain, etc.

It seems that unless someone is privy to this system, all these meanings would not be clear. They aren't universal symbols, or else all the books that were published would have been unnecessary. But, it made me think about other issues—namely, as to why, like at Christmas, someone was on television dictating symbolic language to America. What is it about holidays that brings a symbolic urge to companies?

Ronald Grimes, the ritual theorist, maintains that an underlying symbolic language begins at birth, with the rituals established between mother and baby as the baby cries for food and the mother picks it up, day after day. Again I wonder about symbols that are dictated to people, as opposed to those arising naturally. Can they have any effect? Or, in this case, is just the commonly understood symbol of love from flowers enough? And, Hallmark should remember that symbols are always multivalent—different people interpret them differently. Things less fundamental than water, food and drink seemingly would be more difficult to include in an underlying symbol system.

The emotions inherent in Valentine's Day (you can read its history at this quality internet website) and Christmas would definitely give strong associations with the symbols surrounding them. Is it the emotional nature of the holidays that brings out easy symbol appropriation? And, what does that say about other symbols? Does emotional content help their effect? Or, conversely, does it cloud their effect?

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Gospel, difficult to understand, but plain enough to do so

Amy is writing a paper for her Romans class. Namely, a paper on Romans 3, which, as I keep reminding her, is the first stop on the Romans Road. As she often does, she asked me for a hymn to start her paper, but with these specifications—that it describe telling about the gospel as plain and simple to understand, but that it also discusses the complexity of the same. My instant thought was of "Tell Me the Story of Jesus," but that wasn't it. Then I thought of "Tell Me the Old, Old Story," but that also doesn't do it. In fact, I've completely drawn a blank, even after searching around for a while. I've found a ton of hymns that talk about the simplicity of the gospel, and a ton that talk about its complexity, but 'never the twain shall meet.' What have I forgotten? Is there such a hymn? And if not, would anyone be interested in writing some words I could set to music?

That aside, my favorite option was Charles Wesley's "And Can It Be," although it was vetoed by Amy—not that she doesn't like it, just that it wasn't what she was looking for. I had forgotten that it has 6 verses, but several of my older hymnals had them all. We really miss a lot by leaving some of them out, even though it is a longer hymn. It's such a rousing tune, though, singing 6 verses wouldn't bother me. Granted, it's probably in my top 5 of all hymns. And, apparently I'm not alone.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Although some of my more reformed friends have said to me, "The Wesleys—bad theology, good hymns," I'd have to disagree. You can't have one without the other, and this hymn is a good case for their symbiosis. It draws on so much biblical imagery, it's almost difficult to name it all. There's a discussion of the hymn's doctrine here.

Monday, January 15, 2007

And more...

For even more on the church millinerd featured for us, see these comments from the prior Sunday School post. The pastor of Central Westside has chimed in with some more history of the church and its architecture. Many thanks to Pastor David!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More on the Akron Plan

You might remember this post, in which I discussed churches built on the Akron plan. For more on it, there's some good diagrams of Akron-style churches on this page, as well as some more discussion of the plan itself.

Millinerd, wonderful person that he is, took it upon himself to follow my prior request, and took some pictures over the holidays of the Central Westside United Church of Canada in Owen Sound, Ontario. He's posted a Flickr set of them, which shows the beauty of the building. My favorite is this one (as it relates to the Akron plan), showing the sliding doors that can be lowered to separate the classrooms from the sanctuary.

Many thanks to millinerd for these great photos!

Monday, January 08, 2007

The American West

The week of New Year's Day, I went with my brother's family and Amy's family to Colorado to spend the week skiing in Winter Park. Unfortunately, we were detoured through New Mexico due to a second major blizzard that hit Colorado and Kansas, closing I-70. When we left Oklahoma City I-40 was open, but we arrived in Amarillo to discover it had been closed in the interim. We detoured onto US60 and US285, taking us through cattle towns and the high plains of New Mexico. Eventually we were turned away by the New Mexico highway patrol, but we spent several hours of driving as usually the only 2 cars in sight, surrounded by plains of snow.

I love this area of the country, simply for its solitude. There are few places on earth where the only sign of human activity is a road, but that is one of them. As the sun set (which was easily visible in the immense flatness) and the whole sky turned purple and red, I was really astounded at the beauty. I do love the sky, and I miss it while living in New Jersey, where trees, buildings and smog obscure it. Then, as the sun disappeared, the brightness of the stars and the Milky Way gave me an even greater feeling of smallness than driving in the deserted landscape had done. As is often the case, I thought about one of my favorite hymns.

"For the Beauty of the Earth" is usually sung to the tune DIX, written by Conrad Kocher, a German church musician who founded the School of Sacred Music in Stuttgart. The text, by Folliot Pierpoint, comes in this form from the 1864 second edition of Lyra Eucharistica.

For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.


Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light.

For the joy of ear and eye,
For the heart and mind’s delight,
For the mystic harmony
Linking sense to sound and sight.

For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.

For Thy Church, that evermore
Lifteth holy hands above,
Offering up on every shore
Her pure sacrifice of love.

For the martyrs’ crown of light,
For Thy prophets’ eagle eye,
For Thy bold confessors’ might,
For the lips of infancy.

For Thy virgins’ robes of snow,
For Thy maiden mother mild,
For Thyself, with hearts aglow,
Jesu, Victim undefiled.

For each perfect gift of Thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of Heaven.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This our hymn of grateful praise!

This has somehow come to be associated with Thanksgiving, I suppose because of the "grateful praise" of the refrain. I like it at any time, though! It encompasses not only the beauty of creation, but it covers the Church (living and dead) as well as the incarnation. Enjoy it in the new year, both fiscal and liturgical.